TAMPA — The Bucs on Wednesday said they re-signed tight end Jerramy Stevens on Friday despite knowing he had been accused of rape while in college, an allegation that became widely known just this year and prompted a public backlash this week.
As it turns out, the Bucs also knew something else when they opted to keep the veteran on their roster: He would be subject to another league suspension related to a March 2007 DUI arrest.
Stevens on Wednesday was suspended for the season's first two games, against New Orleans and Atlanta, and fined an additional game check. He also received a stern warning from the NFL, which issued a statement that said if Stevens has any more violations of its substance abuse or personal conduct policies before the regular season starts, he will be suspended without pay for one more game and face additional discipline.
This suspension is separate from a one-game suspension Stevens served last season, also stemming from that arrest, which included a marijuana possession charge. Though it was not specified at the time, last year's suspension was for the narcotics charge, general manager Bruce Allen said. That case was dismissed after Stevens completed a drug diversion program, according to a court spokeswoman in Maricopa County, Ariz.
Wednesday's suspension stems from Stevens' drunken-driving conviction in September. He was not immediately disciplined because the case was being appealed.
The news capped a day in which Allen defended the team's decision to re-up Stevens. Meanwhile, the player faced the media for the first time since re-signing. He cast doubt on the validity of the rape allegation and said again he has learned from his multiple alcohol offenses.
"This is all in my past," he said. "None of this is new. A lot of it is false. It's not a new issue. The issue has been addressed. When I got drafted, all of that was addressed then."
The issue of Stevens' past has re-surfaced since the Seattle Times in January published an investigation into supposed preferential treatment for University of Washington players. One of the stories included lurid details from the rape accusation made against Stevens while he was on the team. Stevens was arrested on suspicion of rape but never charged. Prosecutors said there wasn't sufficient evidence to take the case to trial.
Regarding the passionate reaction of many fans, Stevens was well aware, saying, "I don't feel it's a good use of my time to focus on that, so I'm doing everything I can to try and go forward. It's not surprising to me.
"It's a fan's right to try and understand what's going on. The fact that I play for the Buccaneers and the fans in the community are concerned, I understand that. … The only way I can move forward and become a better person and stay that way is to keep my eyes focused forward and not backtrack and talk about these things that happened and I learned from."
Allen said the allegations were discussed thoroughly when Stevens left Washington because the NFL was aware of the case. Allen said the Bucs also questioned Stevens about his legal history before initially signing him to a one-year contract in April 2007, less than two months after his most recent arrest.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at email@example.com.